The Government is going to forbid smoking in all pubs under new proposals to protect drinkers and bar staff from passive smoking. The Cabinet has given up plans to make an exception with pubs that do not serve food, and is preparing to allow pubs to have separate “smoking rooms”. Similarly, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, is examining plans to allow a “smoking-carriage option” (smoking is banned on almost all British trains).
It would keep the bar smoke-free, protect staff, but permit smokers to light up in a separate area.
The Government had been worried about being accused of discriminating against smokers, particularly working-class Labour voters. The plan for a total prohibition was going to be discussed at a cabinet meeting this week but the deliberation has been postponed after last-minute doubts. Ms Hewitt is said to support a full prohibition but wants to find a practical solution acceptable to the whole Cabinet. Ministerial supporters of a complete ban believe that forbidding smoking in the workplace would help addicts to give up their habit. Others in Government think they would be accused of operating an “overprotective state” if they prohibited smoking.
Smoking-related diseases kill more than 100,000 people a year and cost the National Health Service millions of pounds treating people with such diseases. The move is now publicly welcomed.